Now they admit it – No electric “circuit” coverage in NextGen Science Standards!

Electrocution Cartoon
It’s unbelievable.

In fact, I think many people doubted me when I first started pointing out that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that Kentucky adopted for all its public schools in 2013 (by governor’s fiat) essentially omits all discussion of electrical circuits.

But, when I did a word search in the PDF version of the NGSS, the only place the term “electric circuit” showed up was in a vague fourth grade explanation of a standard, and that was only as an optional instruction example under a very general standard about transmitting energy.

In any event, I was looking for something else yesterday and a page from the NGSS web site’s own “Commonly Searched Questions” area popped up.

It says:

The NGSS do not include specific examples of circuits, such as parallel and series circuits, because the focus is on understanding the core concept of energy transfer. Examples of circuits can be included for instructional purposes when appropriate (underline emphasis added).”

The web page goes on to show that the concept might be considered loosely related to several areas of the elementary school grades’ standards, but it is clear that the people who threw together the NGSS didn’t think it was important to insure that every student would have any real understanding of even very basic electrical circuitry facts such as the fact that a closed circuit is needed to continuously transfer energy with electricity.

Aside from creating an important deficiency in science knowledge, ignorance of some very basic information about electrical circuits can create serious safety issues. Lack of such understanding can lead to personal injury in a number of situations such as those involving high voltage power lines (voltage is another concept absent in NGSS, by the way). It’s hard to warn someone about the danger of becoming a closed electrical circuit involving that power line when they don’t know anything about electricity.

Folks who don’t know anything about electric circuits won’t begin to understand why it is dangerous to cut off that third pin on an electrical plug for an appliance, either.

By the way, it’s a little late to Google up “electric circuit” after one just carbonized you.

So, to be very clear, whoever created the NGSS was way off target when they didn’t think kids needed to know anything about electrical circuits. This omission is astonishing considering that in modern society we are absolutely surrounded by electrical circuits that light, heat, air condition, tell us the time, control our machines, show us movies, sometimes pace our hearts, and can hurt us badly if we don’t understand anything about how they work.

Clearly, other educators at least at one time didn’t agree with the NGSS’ electrical information vacuum. I pointed out about a half a year ago in another blog that even the National Assessment of Educational Progress expects students to know something about electrical circuits.

NAEP 2009 G4 Science Electrical Problem Graphic

In any event, we now know the NGSS folks admit they omitted electric circuits on purpose, not by accident. Imagine that.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Leaving no Kentucky child behind

The nation takes time today to honor one of our country’s most active civil rights leaders, and we think it is important to note that one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most important efforts involved his desire that all children — no matter their race or socioeconomic backgrounds — could have access to a great education.

Among his many writings and speeches, King expressed his dream in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, in 1964, saying:

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

It is now just one year short of half a century since Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, but the evidence shows his dream for education remains unfulfilled both across the United States and here in Kentucky, as well. The Bluegrass Institute has cited this compelling evidence on many occasions.

One of our more important gap examples is our “Blacks Falling Through Gaps” report series on the continuing achievement gap problems in Louisville’s schools. The latest report in that series, “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps in Louisville’s Schools, The 2016 Update,” was released in February 2016 and shows how black students in Kentucky’s largest city continue to be left behind in important areas like high school graduation and mathematics proficiency.

The report also raises strong questions about the value of busing to achieve educational success.

The Bluegrass Institute also provided much more information about Kentucky’s racial achievement gaps in a large series of blogs. These make it clear that Louisville has no copyright on white minus black achievement gap problems.

For example, one of our most recent blogs looks at academic performance in the Elizabethtown Independent School District. This is one of the state’s more upscale school systems with a free and reduced cost school lunch eligibility rate 7.5 percent lower than the statewide average and with per-pupil funding nearly $500 higher than statewide. Still, as we showed in this blog, Elizabethtown has white minus black achievement gaps larger than the statewide averages across almost all school levels in both reading and math.

The Institute also provided a series of examples that busing for integration in Louisville provides no guarantee that gaps will ever be reduced. In addition to discussions about busing in the “Blacks Falling Through Gaps” series, we recently posted yet another blog that shows busing blacks way across town to supposedly upscale schools in the East End of Jefferson County does not result in better performance.

In the case of this latest blog, KPREP test score results show blacks bused to the upper scale Crosby Middle School might be better off attending much lower-wealth schools in Louisville’s West End.

The Institute isn’t interested in just pointing out problems, however. Like Dr. King, we aspire to solutions that will really help us realize his dream. So, we actively support charter schools for Kentucky because these public schools of choice are showing especially good results with minority students.

We are also interested in reining in Louisville’s extremely expensive and unsuccessful school bus program, believing other options could use the massive amount of money spent on busing more effectively. Thus, we are excited about proposals to move Kentucky to better models for student attendance such as Rep. Kevin Bratcher’s House Bill 151, which allows kids to attend schools closer to home.

On this special day, we continue to share Dr. King’s optimism that we can realize his dream. It is taking too long, and there have been too many expensive missteps, but better times and programs are coming, including right here in Kentucky. That cannot help but bless our kids with the educational advances King so earnestly sought.

NAEP shows another charter school myth just isn’t so

With the discussion about charter schools heating up in Kentucky, I decided to examine a frequently raised question about these public schools of choice – Do they discriminate against students with learning disabilities?

To investigate this, I used one of the more stable national survey instruments of our public education system, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Using the NAEP Data Explorer web tool, I generated a set of tables for students with disabilities from the all the 2015 NAEP national public school reading and math samples. I did this by applying the NAEP Data Explorer’s cross tab feature to the 2015 reading and math assessments for the fourth and eighth grades. This allowed me to compare the percentages of students with disabilities, including those with a 504 [IEP] education plan, in charter and non-charter schools across the nation.

This table shows what I found.

2015 NAEP, Charter Schools Versus Non-Charter Schools, Population Percentages of Students with Learning Disabilities, National Public Schools

The first rows in the table show that in the 2015 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessment, the proportion of students with learning disabilities in the NAEP’s charter school random testing sample was 12 percent. Statistically speaking, that isn’t significantly different from the 13 percent of students who had disabilities in the non-charter school sample for this assessment.

As you read through the table for other subject and grade level test data, you will see that the differences are all essentially the same from a statistical point of view.

By the way, I also took a quick look at the NAEP charter versus non-charter statistics from the 2011 administration of Grade 8 Reading. The percentages exactly matched on this NAEP assessment for 2011, too.

I checked out one more thing. Some time ago I wrote about charter schools in Atlanta significantly out-performing the city’s traditional public schools on the 2015 NAEP in reading and math for black students. So, I spot-checked the charter versus non-charter enrollment percentages in Atlanta for Grade 8 NAEP reading and math.

Surprise! The NAEP Grade 8 Reading sample shows the proportion of learning disabled students in Atlanta’s charters amounted to 14 percent of total enrollment while the proportion of disabled student enrollment in Atlanta’s traditional system was only 10 percent. For math, the proportions were 13 percent in charters and 11 percent in the traditional schools. Again, sampling error can explain these differences, but they are ties and are most definitely are not weighted in favor of the traditional public schools.

Thus, within the sampling error of the NAEP, even if there might have been a difference in enrollment patterns for charter and non-charter public schools for students with disabilities at some time in the past, any such differences apparently disappeared and definitely aren’t present as of 2015. The NAEP, perhaps nation’s largest statistically valid sampling of students, says so.

News Release – Pension transparency: Elected officials who kept their word

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 13, 2017

Contact: Jim Waters @ 859.444-5630 (office) 270.320.4376 (cell) 

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — Less than a week into this year’s legislative session, Kentucky’s representatives delivered an enormous win for open and transparent government. Backed by the support of an overwhelming bipartisan coalition, the state House of Representatives voted 95-1 to pass the Legislative Pension Transparency Bill (Senate Bill 3).

The bill gives voters access to details about their elected representatives’ pension plans, adding a crucial layer of accountability to a taxpayer-funded public-pension system taken advantage of in the past.

Spearheading the effort to pass this legislation was Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, the bill’s primary sponsor and public accountability advocate. For more than five years, Sen. McDaniel has worked tirelessly to make this reform a reality, despite being stymied year after year by obstructionists in the House.

“I am thankful that legislative pension transparency is, after more than five years of fighting, a reality in Kentucky,” concluded Sen. McDaniel. “The public deserves to know the potential financial motivations of those they elect and this law ensures that they will have that knowledge.”

This important reform would not have been possible without the support of the public servants who followed through on their commitments to making their own pension benefits open and accessible to those they serve.

“Thank you to all the signers of our Legislative Pension System Transparency Pledge from both sides of the political aisle who kept their word by voting for SB 3,” added Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters. “Their commitment to transparency is an important step toward the kind of accountability needed to address a public-pension crisis which threatens Kentucky’s entire economy.”

Senate pledge signers who voted for SB 3:

Danny Carroll Stephen Meredith C.B. Embry, Jr
Joe Bowen David P. Givens Jimmy Higdon
Damon Thayer Larry West Tom Buford
Chris McDaniel Ernie Harris Mike Wilson


House pledge signers who voted for SB 3:

Steven Rudy Alan Gentry Richard Heath
Ken Fleming James Tipton Lynn Bechler
Daniel Elliott Kenny Imes Kim King
Walker Thomas Joseph M. Fischer Dean Schamore
David Osborne Sal Santoro Robert “Robby” Mills
Brian Linder D. J. Johnson Phillip Pratt
Melinda Gibbons Prunty Adam Koenig Tim Moore
Michael Meredith Donna Mayfield Jody Richards
Bart Rowland Mark Hart Steve Riley
C. Wesley Morgan William Reed Robert J. Benvenuti III
Jim DuPlessis Tim Couch Russell Webber
Gary “Toby” Herald Phil Moffett John C. Blanton
Jason Nemes Jerry T. Miller Larry D. Brown
William Wells Danny R. Bentley Stan Lee
Kevin D. Bratcher Diane St. Onge

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at, 859.444.5630 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).

Bluegrass Beacon: Right-to-work means more jobs – in suits and boots

BluegrassBeaconLogoIn a single day during the first week of the legislative session — not to speak of the entire week itself — Bowling Green Rep. Jim DeCesare’s Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee did more to bring meaningful growth to Kentucky than the former Democratically controlled House did in 95 years.

While labor-union representatives chanted “suits in there, boots out here” in the hallway outside Room 171 at the Capitol Annex, committee members – meeting for the first time under the new GOP banner flying high in Frankfort after being folded up for nearly a century – removed serious economic barriers to making Kentucky’s economy great again by fast-tracking bills that will implement right-to-work protections for employees and remove expensive prevailing-wage mandates on public projects.

The right-to-work legislation was one of seven bills — three of which involved important labor reforms — passed in the historic Saturday session held later that same week. Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature soon thereafter made Kentucky the 27th right-to-work state in America.

DeCesare handled his first meeting as committee chairman masterfully, allowing full debate from both sides while insisting on civility and a respectful tone.

“We are doing things a different way,” newly anointed House Speaker Jeff Hoover told the committee.

“Different” is an understatement.

It’s been exasperating for years to watch politicians eat up precious taxpayers’ resources in Frankfort funding a January coma in which nothing beyond filing awkward, meaningless bills got done before Groundhog Day rolled around.

Actually producing? Unheard of.

And, during the first week? Has it ever happened?

The first week of this year’s legislative session was like walking into a bright, sunny day after being stuck for nearly a century in a room darkened by the pessimism and sheer obstructionism of the past and failed ruling elite.

The initial “Whoa! That’s bright!” turned into a “Wow, what an awesome day!” which led to “What an awesome week!” after it began to sink in just how pivotal the beginning of this year’s General Assembly session would be in Kentucky’s history.

With passage of right-to-work, Kentuckians can expect solid economic improvement.

Compare what happened in West Virginia, which, like Kentucky, dragged its heels on right-to-work for years until passing it last year, to what happened in Indiana and Michigan.

Vincent Vernuccio of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy found:

  • Average wages in both Indiana and Michigan increased after right-to-work laws were passed.
  • Since Indiana became a right-to-work state in 2012, its average wage rose faster than West Virginia’s.
  • Between 2012 – when Michigan passed its right-to-work law – and mid-2015, incomes in the Great Lakes State rose more than 9 percent, which was faster than both West Virginia and the national average.
  • Between 2012 and 2014, average hourly wages rose by 56 cents to $19.94 in Indiana, 56 cents to $21.70 in Michigan but only 37 cents to $18.21 in West Virginia.

Vernuccio also reports that when cost-of-living is taken into consideration and “you look at what people can actually buy with their money, workers in right-to-work states have 4.1 percent higher incomes than workers in non-right-to-work states.”

But if you doubt those state-to-state comparisons, consider what’s happened right here in Kentucky.

Since passing the nation’s first local right-to-work ordinance, Warren County has landed more than $1 billion in capital investment from companies who’ve signed to expand or relocate in southcentral Kentucky.

Per Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, there currently are 55,000 available job openings today in that one county.

Plus, Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon says he anticipates another 12,000 job prospects in the very near future.

If such growth can occur in a single county in southcentral Kentucky, imagine what will happen across the Bluegrass State with a right-to-work policy that attracts business and protects individual workers from being forced to pay union dues.

All kinds of jobs are coming to Kentucky. Some require suits; some boots.

Doesn’t Kentucky need more of both?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.

High school diploma quality – a serious problem on both sides of the Ohio River

A Kentucky Enquirer news article, “Grad requirements: Class of 2018 is in trouble,” talks about the disconnect between what public schools think is an adequate education to earn a high school diploma and what state leaders think should really be required. It appears Ohio’s educators are even upset about requiring the equivalent of just a 10th grade education to earn a diploma, wanting even lower standards to apply.

Well, high school diploma quality is a serious problem on both sides of the Ohio River.

Kentucky currently posts well above national average high school graduation rates – in 2016 the on-time, “Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate” was 88.6 percent – but other data indicate a startling number of those diplomas do not represent real readiness for what comes next in those graduates’ lives.

For example, Kentucky has well-defined criteria for determining what is considered readiness for either college or a career, offering students several methods to show such readiness. But, in 2016 only 68.5 percent of the state’s high school graduates were able to meet muster under at least one of those various criteria.

Put Kentucky’s 2016 graduation rate and readiness rate information together, and only 60.7 percent of the entering ninth grade students who should have graduated in 2016 actually did graduate with the skills needed to be ready for life. That essentially is an “effective” high school graduation rate of only 60.7 percent, far lower than the official 88.6 percent rate.

It gets worse.

Kentucky regulations stipulate that the state’s high school graduates are to be competent in math through Algebra II. Most Kentucky students take Algebra II in the 11th grade, but the proficiency rate on Kentucky’s Algebra II End-of-Course Exam in the 2014-15 school year was only 38.2 percent! That doesn’t line up well with those 11th graders’ graduation rate one year later of 88.6 percent.

Very simply, it looks like massive numbers of Kentucky’s 2016 graduates didn’t really meet regulatory requirements for graduation.

Considering this mass of evidence, it seems pretty obvious that many Kentucky students are getting a piece of paper without mastering required material and that those graduates are not ready for life, a publicly stated goal for education in Kentucky.

Regardless of whether we talk about Kentucky or Ohio, granting large numbers of students that coveted high school diploma doesn’t matter so much if they still are leaving school with inadequate educations. And, the rather compelling and extensive evidence from Kentucky shows that this problematic situation is exactly what is happening south of the Ohio River.

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News release: It’s a new day in My Old Kentucky Home

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 7, 2017

Contact: Jim Waters @ 859.444-5630 (office) 270.320.4376 (cell) 

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — Legislators today in a historic Saturday session replaced the “Closed for Business” signs that had kept opportunity out of the Bluegrass State with an unmistakable statement that the commonwealth is now “Open for Business” by passing legislation making Kentucky the nation’s 27th right-to-work state.

“Just like we saw in Thursday’s passage by the Kentucky House of Representatives, lawmakers’ courageous determination to do the right thing was on full display today with the state Senate’s final passage of House Bill 1 by a 25-12 margin,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.

“We’re thankful for our supporters who have partnered with us for more than a decade as we made both the economic and liberty cases for right-to-work protections for hardworking Kentuckians. Without them, this day doesn’t happen,” Waters said.

The Legislature today also repealed prevailing-wage mandates on public projects and enacted paycheck protection for workers, allowing workers to choose whether to have union dues withheld from their paychecks. Currently workers must choose to opt out of having an employer withhold their dues. Legislative pension transparency also became a reality today.

“Right-to-work is good for Kentucky and good for America,” Waters said. “Incomes are up and opportunities abound in right-to-work states; but most importantly, this policy defends individual liberties of hardworking Kentuckians by giving them the right to decide how to spend their own hard-earned money.”

HB 1 was undergirded by the fact that many Kentucky counties which have passed local right-to-work ordinances during the past couple of years.

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon says the county – the nation’s first to pass a right-to-work ordinance – has attracted more than $1 billion capital investment since passing its local ordinance in December 2014.

“With that kind of growth in one Kentucky county, just imagine what could happen across this entire commonwealth with free-market policies.” Waters said. “We’ve got counties and entire regions throughout the Bluegrass State facing Depression-like economic conditions, but it’s a new day in my old Kentucky home.”

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).

Author says: ‘I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems’

Here’s a Huffington Post article worth your read.

Poet Sara Holbrook discovered some of her poems were being used as seventh grade test items in Texas STAAR test. To her dismay, she couldn’t figure out what the answers to the questions really were! And, Ms. Holbrook wrote the poems!

By the way, Kentucky, don’t act smug just because this issue surfaced in Texas. Holbrook says the Texas tests are created by Pearson, the same company that creates the Grade 3 through Grade 8 KPREP tests for the Bluegrass State. For all we know, the same test questions might even be on the KPREP.

More on Jefferson County school with alleged “anarchy”

Back before Christmas, we alerted you to a breaking story about a bullying lawsuit now under way in Jefferson County’s Crosby Middle school. One of the state’s most successful and talented lawyers, Teddy Gordon, and three other lawyers filed this suit on behalf of a number of families and their children, alleging serious problems went unchecked at Crosby.

This suit particularly caught my attention because Crosby Middle school is located far from the inner-city, low-income area of Jefferson County. In fact, Crosby is about the most Easterly situated middle school in the district, located in an area of above average incomes. Crosby has notably above district average white student enrollment and well below average poverty rates according to data in Crosby’s 2015-16 Kentucky School Report Card.

Given these advantages, Crosby seems a somewhat surprising place to find serious problems.

So, I got curious and decided to look at how Crosby performed in the 2015-16 KPREP reading and math testing.

I got a surprise when I did that. It turns out that in both reading and math, black students in Crosby scored notably lower than black students in several West End Jefferson County schools, which are located in a far less prosperous section of this enormous school district.


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Bluegrass Institute welcomes Director of Digital Marketing

For Immediate Release: Monday, Jan. 2, 2017

Contact: Jim Waters @bipps or (859) 444-5630

folu-elegbede(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, is pleased to welcome Folu Elegbede as its new Director of Digital Marketing.

Elegbede, a Lexington resident and Nigerian native, will oversee the expansion of the Bluegrass Institute’s digital presence by fully utilizing all available social media platforms to advance free-market solutions to Kentucky’s greatest policy challenges.

“It’s a great honor to join the distinct team here at the Bluegrass Institute with special thanks to board member Aaron Ammerman for his facilitating role in introducing me to this important and exciting endeavor,” Elegbede said. “I look forward to helping increase the Institute’s pivotal influence on the battlefield of ideas towards a peaceful, freer and more prosperous Kentucky.”

Elegbede studied at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he majored in Liberal Arts (Philosophy and History of Math and Sciences), was a Hodson Trust Scholar and served as a Student Government Delegate.

He’s currently completing his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Georgetown College leading to a Master’s degree in Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Along with his academic studies, Elegbede has worked as an author and activist for pro-liberty groups in Africa and served as an intern with both the Charles Koch Institute and Atlas Network, where he addressed barriers to trade between the U.S. and African countries.

“Folu’s wide-ranging experience and commitment to the principles of free markets and free peoples will advance the cause of liberty in our commonwealth in ways we have not seen to this point,” Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters said. “His network of liberty lovers worldwide combined with his significant ability to skillfully use the tools of technology will serve to grow the institute’s impact in furthering the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty and limited – and transparent – government.

Elegbede can be reached at @FElegbede or (859) 270-6566.